The whole purpose of starting a blog is not only to share my creative inspirations and the progression from idea to finished piece but also to act as a spur to actually getting some designing done. I find it all too easy to be lazy and not pick up a sketchbook and put down my ideas. Ideas are constantly buzzing around in my head but very few are actually used and without the external discipline of an assignment most are just forgotten. So I have decided to set myself a project.
I have always found trees a huge source of interest and inspiration. A few months ago as I was coming home on a particularly cold and foggy day I passed this tree…
I think it’s an Ash Tree. A very common species in the UK but also under serious threat from a fungus that causes dieback. Potentially we could lose most of our Ash trees in this country.
I have decided to follow this tree through the year. Photographing it regularly in all seasons. I also thought it would help me with my designing, keeping me on track especially with my ‘Tree Series’ of pots.
Here’s today’s entry :-
We’re still in winter, no new leaves on the tree it’s a bit dull and very cold. There’s a little bit of colour from the ivy on the trunk but that is all. Here’s a little bit of work on my ‘Winter Tree’
And a finished piece, it’s not perfect yet but I’m getting there.
I am hoping that next month there will be a bit more interest. I notice that the birds are starting to construct their nests. I will be out looking for rookeries to photograph – now that will be an interesting subject!
It’s been such a relief to see the first signs that Winter is in retreat and that milder weather is on its way. This year has been the first I’ve tried to do Raku firing in Winter. At times it’s been fairly grim sheltering behind my shed and warming myself next to the kiln in sub-zero temperatures and with several inches of snow on the ground.
It had to be done though and I have learned a lot. You could say I learn something new every time I do a firing. There are so many variables that can affect the result. Some are down to the temperature, wind and humidity on the day. Some are due to the size, quality and composition of the sawdust and organic material I am using to produce the smoke. No two firings are the same and smoked pots can vary in colour from pale greys though light browns to dark brown and black. Some pots have all shades and colours depending on the way they sit on the sawdust. A sudden gust of wind as I’m placing the heated pot on the sawdust can whip it up into a flame in a second. Even the size of the container I use to contain the smoke, the smoke chamber if you like, has an effect. I suppose this for me is the appeal. I enjoy the hands-on aspect of Raku but also battling the elements and trying hard to predict and obtain the results I’m after. This is quite apart from whether the pot will withstand the rigors of the Raku process itself. The rapid expansion and contraction during the heating and smoking puts extraordinary stresses on the pots. The vast majority survive but I’ve had many disappointments too.
This is a bowl I fired yesterday. One of the paler ones. It forms part of a series of pots that I’m calling the ‘Tree Form’ Series. All based on trees and leaves and most with tall pedestal bases (the ‘trunk’). On the whole I’m quite happy with the way it’s turned out in spite of the colour variation. I’m getting used to it now – the vagaries of Raku!